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Unforgettable Easter concert: 75 years ago

When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall, the famed singer performed before 75,000 people at an open-air concert on Easter Sunday, 1939.
When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Marian Anderson to sing at Constitution Hall, the famed singer performed before 75,000 people at an open-air concert on Easter Sunday, 1939.
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For Christian believers Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, culminates with Easter Sunday, which commemorates his resurrection from the dead. An event of profound significance also occurred on Easter Sunday, 1939, when Marian Anderson, world renowned contralto, gave an open-air performance from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. More than 75,000 people showed up to listen to the free concert.

Originally Anderson was scheduled to perform at Constitution Hall, which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but because she was African America, the DAR refused to allow her to use the facility.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, resigned from the DAR in protest, and thousands of other members followed suit. With the support of Mrs. Roosevelt and the President, Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior organized the concert, which has been described as, “. . . one of the early, defining moments in the history of protest against racial inequality in America.”

The accompanying slide show depicts scenes from the life of one of the most admired respected women of the 20th Century, the renowned vocal artist with “a voice that occurs once in a hundred years.”

Take a look at the following article connected to Marian Anderson: Ten African American firsts occurring in January.

Marian Anderson is among those honored with a Black heritage stamp. Click here to view slides in the series.